Monday, July 25, 2016

The Reign of the Fire Princess and the Acorn Princess

What is up, lovely humans? It's a sunny, humid Monday in Biloxi! But, I feel like I've said that phrase every week for the past few transfers. Hilarious.

Misconceptions about humidity: you don't have to wear Chapstick or lotion. In the Mufasa and Scar companionship (translation: Sister Jones and Sister Rose), we are probably the main contributors to the makers of lip balm and lotion. It's a struggle, but at least we smell fantastic all the time.

We've had some adventures this week! It's been really fun. Weeks as a missionary are rollercoasters. I'm never feeling the same things day to day; there's always something new. There's always something different. It's amazing. The Lord has a new plan for us every single day, and I never know what my Heavenly Father has in store for us.

One night while planning, I'd felt a prompting to go see a past investigator who'd had a now-passed baptismal date. We'd been back a couple of times, but those visits had been fruitless. I felt uncomfortable adding her to our plans, but the feeling wouldn't go away. I figured, if we weren't meant to see her, the Lord would make sure we didn't.

Well, that's not what He did. In fact, He kept that window of time wide open so we would have plenty of time to go to her house.

Feeling nervous, we knocked. I figured she'd be at work; she was busy; she probably wasn't interested anymore. This feeling didn't make any sense, but we acted anyway.

She wasn't the one who answered the door. It was her brother, who I'd seen in passing while we'd been teaching her. At the time, he didn't seem interested in our existence. He didn't have a church; he wasn't particularly religious. He believed in God, believed in Jesus Christ, and he'd made some bad decisions.

When we asked for his sister, he told us she was busy. We were about to go, but he stepped onto the porch and shut the door behind him. He asked us what we did, and after we explained, he said, "I'd like to hear y'all's message."

We didn't get to share a full message, but Sister Jones and I shared our testimonies, said a prayer with him, and tried to invite the Spirit. We gave him a card, directed him to, and we left. He said he would talk to us when we came to see his sister again.

Weird, right?

No, he isn't a new investigator. No, we didn't give him a Book of Mormon, but we did something for him. The Lord wanted us to be at his doorstep for a reason. What that reason was, I'm not totally sure. Maybe something we said benefited him somehow. I don't know. I don't need to; because God knows.

God has a greater plan for us and all of His children. This week, my patience has certainly been tried. Sister Jones and I have spent a greater portion of this week at the DMV, trying to renew my driver's license.

Do you ever try to do something, and obstacles keep coming up? Every turn you make, there's a new wall; a new problem; a new, unforeseen issue, and you aren't sure that you're even supposed to be going this way in the first place?

You'd think that, if you're doing the right thing and you're along the right path, things should be smooth sailing. That's what would make sense, right? But, I'm afraid that's incorrect. And, I've learned this from not just this DMV experience, but from multiple other points of my life. I always tend to refer to a quote from President Henry B. Eyring: "If you're on the right path, it will always be uphill."

I'd like that branded on me somewhere, so I'll never forget it. I remember when I first started my mission papers. It was fall of 2014. I was in school at BYU-Idaho. It was then that I'd received the prompting to serve, and as I'd prayed, received blessings, and acted, I began the process to becoming a full-time missionary.

Now, if you are unfamiliar with the Church's application process, let me explain it: it requires a lot of paperwork around insurance, mental and physical health evaluations, multiple interviews with Church leaders to evaluate your worthiness, questionnaires -- everything you can think of. It's rather extensive, but not impossible to complete. I've had friends who've submitted their papers within a week. I, however, was not so lucky. It took around five months for my papers to finally be submitted to Salt Lake City.

The moment I said, "I'm going to serve a mission" it was like Satan made it his personal duty to make sure I had the hardest time accomplishing that goal.

I had a hard time getting a hold of my home ward bishop (since I was still at school). Paperwork became an issue. I was in counseling and was dealing with anxiety that was detrimental to my lifestyle. My family was in the thick of a heavy trial. Interviews didn't go the way I'd envisioned them going -- everything that could have possibly gone wrong did.

I remember someone asking me if I was sure that this was actually what I was supposed to do. Maybe the Lord was trying to tell me that I needed to focus on something else.

But, more vividly, I remember the feelings that would swell in my chest whenever someone would say something like that. No, I knew that this what the Lord wanted me to do. Every fiber of my being confirmed that, yes, I was meant to be a missionary. It was like my spirit was pressing against my chest cavity, reaching for those who tried to convince me otherwise to tell them, "I know this is what I'm supposed to do. Do not deny what Heaven has confirmed."

I was determined. When I knew what God wanted me to do, it did not cross my mind to do something contrary to it. I would become a missionary, no matter what it took.

Y'all can now see the result of those trials. I am now a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been serving for a period of ten months (eleven on the twenty-sixth of this month), and I plan to serve until the end. Because that is what the Lord has destined for me, as far as I know.

Do not be discouraged when it seems that nothing is going right. Going uphill hurts. It isn't easy; the path of discipleship has never been easy, nor will it ever be. But, the happiness you receive from these trials you will experience are incomparable to anything you will ever feel in this life.

Jesus Christ carries you through your trials. That was His purpose. Multiple times during my missionary application process, I would spend nights in tears, trying to find solace in the scriptures and in my prayers. I remember opening the scriptures to Ether chapter 12 in the Book of Mormon, and finding verses 9 through 12. Those verses are what truly fortified my decision to serve when I felt that I was on the verge of breaking and giving in.

God knows what's in store for you. He's given you the Savior to carry you through those hills that feel like mountains.

And at the end of it, you can turn back, holding the Savior's hand, and seeing the miles over which you've traveled.

"O, Lord, I am yet strong; give me one more mountain."

Have a good week.



Sister Rose

Chalk Talk! <3 We did two of these this week! But...I'll give you pictures of the other one next week since they're on Sister Jones's camera.

Comp. selfie (by accident)

The beach! When it's sunny and hot!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Do You Want To Be the Very Best?

Like no one ever was?

Goooooooooooooood morning, lovely people! It's nice and sunny with some impending clouds on the gulf coast today. Sister Jones and I have a fun-filled P-Day planned, with lots of nerd shopping and plenty of joy-having. Are you excited for today? Because I certainly am!

This week was rather eventful. We learned that there's this new Pokemon game out. What's it called -- Pokemon Go? We play a new game where we try to spot people who are hunting for Pokemon, and they're actually very easy to find down by the beach. It's crazy how things advance when you're on a mission -- I'm already being told by the Youth that the songs that I still know are way too old now. (Whoops. I guess I'm a geezer.) So, Sister Jones and I are trying to update our finding methods. We've decided to go up to these Pokemon trainers and say, "Do you want to be the very best? Like no one ever was?" And then talk to them about the Book of Mormon.

Do you think it'll work?

We aren't sure yet.

In other news, Elder Ah Ching has flown home to his family in Utah. Thank you for your two years of dedicated service to the Lord, Elder Ah Ching! It was awesome to spend eight weeks with you. I don't know what you'll be doing for the rest of your life, but good luck with it!

Because of Elder Ah Ching's departure, the Biloxi district has shifted. Elder Hughes has now been absorbed into the Spanish Elders' companionship. They will now be a trio. This means that us and the Woolmarket Elders will get to keep our cars! :D Exciting, right?! Especially after all the walking Sister Jones and I did this week. I suppose this is what happens when someone's bike breaks and you get to feel like a pioneer for a few days. (There is a reason why Heavenly Father plopped me into the twenty-first century and not into the nineteenth.)

Heavenly Father always paves a way for miracles. I did a brief blurb on miracles last week, but miracles are always continuing, aren't they? I used to think God could teach me a lesson in only a week, but He is now instructing me on the virtue of patience, which is a lifetime lesson, especially when I'm constantly learning all kinds of lessons.

He always seems to wait until I'm at the brink of my frustration to plop an obvious miracle in front of my face. But, in reflection of the sentence I just typed, I think we become more aware of miracles when we're at the edge of our cliffs. When our toes are about to slide off, or even when our fingers can't hold us up any longer, that is when we're able to look down and see the ledge very close below us, or the hand that's been reaching out to pull us up the whole time. It is when we need the miracles that we start looking for them, and I, frankly, find that ridiculous.

The real test of this life is noticing and appreciating the good things when things are going well. In the Book of Mormon, there is a consistent cycle of people prospering, getting rich, forgetting that God gave that to them, and then all of it being taken away from them. We call that the Pride Cycle. We are all personally going through the Pride Cycle, although we don't necessarily have to. Heavenly Father wants us to rejoice when things are going well, but He also wants us to remember who helped us get there in the first place -- Him.

Last week, I was wrapped up in my own darkness; my own fears and worries ate at my "brightness of hope" as Nephi would put it. I was deeply seeded in my own problems, and as I tried to ignore it while doing my missionary work, I felt that every aspect of my work was fruitless; every effort I put in was pointless. I did what I thought was right, but I for a while, I did not feel that I was doing it the right way, or that I was making a difference.

But, I was wrong. Like I often am.

I am reminded yet again of Nephi's Psalm in 2 Nephi chapter 4, where he says, "My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep...And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."

You must put your trust in Heavenly Father when the wrinkles aren't coming out, when the rain won't stop, when you still can't see the ledge below you. Leaps of faith are sometimes steps around a corner. Trusting Heavenly Father is doing your part and knowing that He will bring to pass the righteous desires of your heart in His time.

He cares about those things, you know; those things that you know would please Him, and yet they still haven't happened. Maybe you want to serve a mission, or get married? Maybe you want to have children or read your scriptures more? Maybe things just aren't working out when you've asked for His help, and you're still wondering, "What am I doing wrong? This is a good thing -- why hasn't it happened yet?"

Don't doubt your faith, brothers and sisters. Don't doubt yourself or your Heavenly Father. While I am a proponent of consistent improvement, sometimes we really are doing our best and we just have to continue doing that best. Heavenly Father is guiding us; we just can't see the bigger picture yet.

I am slowly beginning to see the world unravel as miracles that I thought could never happen actually have. I have seen people change; I have watched a light enter into someone's eyes. I have seen true happiness and I can say confidently that it is found in the full gospel of Jesus Christ. God answers your prayers, and I know that because He has answered mine. I am no better than you; we are all children of God. He listens to every word you whisper to Him, every wish you have. He knows you. He knows what's best for you.

Watch for His answers, okay? They're there. Don't brush off an answer because you can't believe it would happen to you. I know it can.

Anyone can receive these answers. Anyone can come closer to God. I have been able to meet amazing Christians who you wouldn't necessarily look like Christians, but they emulate the light of Christ so brightly; all the world could see it if they would just look.

One of those lovely people said something great the other day. He talked about how he'd bought food for a homeless man, and the man told him, "You don't look like a Christian."

Now, this guy has rather large gauges in his ears, wears lots of rings and black; he adorns Legend of Zelda merchandise and enjoys stylish hats. He is quiet and caring, and in response to this man, he said, "It doesn't matter what you look like; it's what you do."

What do you do, brothers and sisters? How do you emulate your Savior? Are you steadfast, holding onto the hope for a brighter future? Are you patient? Do you serve others? Do you share your light with those who are slowly burning away?

What do you do?

Have a good week!



Sister Rose

P.S. Hello, Sister Jones's mom! I see you there. Reading my weekly e-mails. We're onto you.

Our district before Elder Ah Ching went home! From left to right we have: Sister Jones, ME!, Elder Ahanonu, Elder Paxton, Elder Hughes, Elder Ah Ching, Elder Tenifa, and Elder Roberts!

Sister Jones and I enjoying some Smoothie King :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

All is Chickens

Happy Tuesday morning to everyone! It's a hot, sunny day in Biloxi, Mississippi. We are enjoying this beautiful summertime on the coast and adjusting to the changes of a new transfer.

Who is this "we" of which I speak, you may ask? Why, none other than Sister Rose and Sister Jones! My new companion!

Sister Jones comes from Utah. She and I are basically the same person, which makes proselyting all the more enjoyable. She has a deep love for those she serves, and she has the sweetest Spirit about her. She beams positivity and light, and she's already touching the lives of those in Biloxi.

We also received an almost entirely new district! The comanionships are as follows: Elder Paxton and Elder Ahanonu (our new District Leader), Elder Tenifa and Elder Roberts (who replaced Elder Godfrey in Woolmarket), and Elder Hughes and Elder Ah Ching (they've not changed yet. Elder Ah Ching heads home next week!).

The lovely Sister Abril has moved on to El Dorado, Arkansas, where she is tearing it up with the one and only, SISTER BARNEY!



Missions are fascinating things, aren't they? Never in my life have I had more amazing experiences. I am learning new things every single day -- about myself, the gospel, my companion. Never have I been happier; never have I been able to see and recognize the blessings that flow from my Heavenly Father.

This week, we've tried focusing on the little miracles. New, amazing things always happen and the end and beginnings of the transfer. As I've talked to other missionaries about investigators and the work, I've come to understand a little bit of how faith works in the work.

I've said this before, but faith isn't a passive word; it isn't a simple "belief" in something. Faith moves you to action. The gospel has never asked anyone to be passive. Jesus Christ was always asking His followers to do something about their faith. With that in  mind, faith in missionary work is knowing and being confident that as you work and do your best, Heavenly Father will pave the way for miracles to happen.

But, what are miracles?

I think I sometimes am skeptical of miracles -- like those random stories you hear about some person who was miraculously healed, someone who heard just the right piece of doctrine to help them, money coming to a bank account after paying tithing. Big miracles. Miracles that impress you for the rest of your life -- but what if none of those have ever happened to you?

I can't say I know anyone who's been miraculously healed. I can't say that paying my tithing has always given me a plethora of money. But, why can't those things happen to others?

I have always had this slight feeling of "No, that can't happen. Those things don't happen now. That's unreal." And that, my friends, is a doubt. Doubt is the opposite -- dare I say the enemy -- of faith. That hinders a bit of spirituality, especially when we have a scripture that makes me eat my words:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down n the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men."

That comes to you from the Book of Moroni, chapter seven, in the one and only, Book of Mormon. There really is a scripture for everything.

Miracles are always happening. It's a miracle when people who have been smoking for decades are able to put those down for good for the sake of the gospel. It's a miracle when someone comes along and already loves the Book of Mormon. It's a miracle when we get up in the morning and are able to be alive to enjoy a new day. It's a miracle for us to even be here, brothers and sisters.

What miracles will you see this week?

Love y'all! Have a good week!



Sister Rose

Sister Jones and me at the storehouse!!!! I love this girl :)

Elder Tenifa doesn't like selfies (I didn't care)

This neat burned-down house we passed while in Woolmarket!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Quick Changes

Good morning, world! It is a lovely, humid day in Gulfport, Mississippi. This comes to you from the Family History Center in the stake center. You see, it's transfer week; that's why this is so late. And we humble members of the Biloxi district are undergoing some changes.

Sadly, my lovely companion Sister Abril is being transferred to the Monroe Zone. I'm sad to see her go; we only had one transfer together! And we don't even get to celebrate our birthdays together. We had these amazing plans to celebrate since we're only a day apart! But, that's okay. God has better plans for Sister Abril! It was a privilege to be her companion. She is going to bless the lives of those wherever the Lord sends her. She's certainly taught me a lot, and I can't wait to hear of her adventures in Louisiana.

Others that are leaving include: Elder Godfrey and Elder Castrejon. We will be receiving a new district leader, but I have no idea who the new people are yet! I'm afraid y'all will just have to wait in suspense until next week.

Sister Abril and I went on many adventures this week. A lizard managed to climb into our car (after Sister Abril tried to catch it) and hid itself behind some of the panels on the driver's side. We have yet to see that lizard. It has been a week.

I've learned a great many things about the Great Apostasy and its significance to today. I've found twelve different ways to make chicken and rice. I had ceviche for the first time. So many great and amazing things happened this week; I wish I could detail all of them for you!

With the chaos of transfers coming up, Sister Abril and I were very busy this week; we did as much teaching as we possibly could, trying to touch as many souls as possible. In doing so, I learned some new teaching methods this week: for instance, lessons aren't always traditional, the way Preach My Gospel would lay them out to be. A lot of lessons are impromptu, and people hardly learn the way you think they're going to. Sister Abril and I had the opportunity to tell a Book of Mormon story to a group of kids who'd never even heard of it! I wasn't sure they would understand the message behind what we taught them, but man, was I proved wrong! Set beside a truck bed, with beat-up lawn chairs and buzzing mosquitoes, we told them the story of Nephi and his older brothers going to retrieve the plates from Laban (1 Nephi 3).

We learn a lot of basic principles from that story alone. We learn about the spirit of revelation, listening to the promptings of the Spirit, aligning our will with God's, ceasing our murmuring, remaining faithful, and so forth. These principles and many more were exclaimed as Sister Abril and I checked the kids' understanding. They were excited to hear about another story next time we came, and I'm super excited to share it with them!

While reflecting on my week, I've tried to come up with some kind of story to tell, or a lesson learned. I learn so many things in a day, and I don't always get the chance to write them down. Heavenly Father is always teaching me something, and I think lately it's been to rejoice.

We, as humans, have this amazing talent for reprimanding ourselves for the littlest of things. We are able to make a longer list of our faults than our strengths. On the journey to perfection, we tend to deny ourselves the love that Heavenly Father offers us by telling ourselves we should have sprinted to the finish by now, when Heavenly Father wants to reward us for simply taking a step forward.

In missionary work, I ofttimes find myself hating a lot of my work. I should have done this, I say -- I should have taught this, said that, done this, talked to that person, gone here instead. And while we can always improve -- and certainly, I know that I have quite a bit of room for improvement -- Heavenly Father wants us to take a look at where we are and who we've become, and then look back and see where we last stood and who we once were.

Lately, I've been trying to take Ammon's approach to missionary work. Ammon is quite the amazing guy. He's a very bold missionary. He's very loving and very clever. He knows how to teach simply. He knows how to find investigators, how to keep them interested, and how to truly invite the Spirit.

Ammon accomplishes quite a bit during his ministry. I can't list all of his accomplishments, but he is a steadfast missionary, and I strive to be like him. In Alma 26, he is overjoyed with the success he and his fellow missionaries had with the Lamanites. As he is describing how happy he is, Aaron -- one of the other missionaries -- "rebukes" him and says, "Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away into boasting" (v. 10).

I imagine Ammon laughing when Aaron says that, and he says, "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God" (v. 11).

Ammon knows where the credit goes -- it goes to God. Without God and Jesus Christ, we can do nothing. They are the ones who make all things possible, and Ammon knows that. He knows it wasn't him or his brethren who converted the Lamanites; it was the Spirit of the Lord. He goes on to explain the great and wonderful miracles that were wrought because of that Spirit. He says:

"We have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

Now behold, can we look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay., they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us" (v. 30-31).

What fascinates me about these verses is that Ammon expected very little to come out of their ministry. He knew that people had their agency, that most of them probably wouldn't accept his message. All he wanted to do was save someone.

Because of the missionaries' humility, their diligence, love, testimony, and persistence, the Spirit was brought unto the Lamanites, and so many people changed because of it.

We expect very little out of our lives, I think. We have great plans and we feel like what actually comes falls short of what we deem to be the best. We feel like we should know what we want to do with our lives; we should have financial security, the solid testimony, the extensive knowledge of the scriptures, the job we want, etc. We want so much and see what little we have and feel like we are making meager strides towards being who God wants us to be.

If you feel this way -- if you feel that you are below what God wants you to be when you are trying your best and still falling short, I would like for you to take advice from Ammon:

"Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began' yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name" (v. 35 This is also Sister Abril's favorite scripture, just so y'all know!).

This does not mean we should be content with the spot we've reached and start walking along a spiritual plateau. But, you must rejoice, brothers and sisters. Be happy as a child of God. He loves you. He is commending you for your efforts to do better, even if you don't even realize that you're doing better. If you are trying to improve, trying to take steps toward God, trying to meet the challenges He gives you and doing the best you can, then I can assure you that you're improving. And if you don't feel like it, ask Heavenly Father, and remember the atonement of Jesus Christ.

He makes up for all the things we can't reach. He fills in all of the holes that dig into our hearts. He is the one who takes the strides we can't. He wants to help you, and He is helping you. He will help you achieve your goals; He will help you be more sanctified, more loving, ready to learn, ready to listen, ready to be a better disciple. He is there for you in all trials. And if that does not give you a reason to rejoice, then I don't know what will.

Have a good week, brothers and sisters. I hope y'all had a happy Independence Day! I know we did.

Be safe. Be kind. Remember to rejoice! The Savior is here to help you.

I love y'all! I'll have more updates next week.



Sister Rose

Elder Paxton, one of our resident Spanish missionaries, is rather tan for how white he is. So, last P-Day, we decided to spray his hair black to see if he looked Hispanic. (The answer is no. He actually just looks whiter.)

I asked Elder Godfrey to imitate Sister Abril. I think he's rather spot-on.

Companionship selfie! feat. Elder Godfrey

Our last district photo before transfers! :( In this photo (from left to right): Elder Paxton, Elder Godfrey, Elder Hughes, Elder Tenifa, Sister Abril, Elder Ah Ching, ME!, and Elder Castrejon. 

Went to Hot Topic to see Vinny. Vinny convinced Sister Abril to buy glasses that she didn't need (but now they match!)

Vinny's pretty cool, I suppose.

Our companionship in a photo.

My comp. is pretty cool, I guess.

We convinced Elder Paxton to wear a Mad Hatter coat we found at Hot Topic

Fourth of July fireworks over the coast!

 Elder Hughes and Elder Paxton workin' that windswept look.

We got up really early so we could be in Gulfport by 6:30AM, so I got to see this gorgeous sunrise over the gulf!

Selfie with Elder Godfrey before he gets transferred!

One more selfie with Sister Abril. Tear it up in Monroe, girl! (And one more photobomb from Elder Godfrey!)